RantRoom, a Triangle startup aiming to bring context and team spirit to social media, is taking its sales pitch to Silicon Valley this week for the National Venture Capital Association’s annual gathering. RantRoom will sound off during “Office Hours,” an NVCA meeting feature that includes 42 startups around the country who are seeking funding. RantRoom is the only N.C. firm selected.

So what is RantRoom? The name offers a big hint.

And who are the founders? One is from SAS.

Here’s an exclusive Q&A with the CEO and co-founder John York of RantRoom, which could be a big, new influencer for social media.

  • What’s RantRoom all about?

RantRoom is the newest social media platform, which focuses on context-based conversations through the creation of topic-focused and event-focused RantRooms. Each user can create their own RantRooms (public or private), or join other RantRooms. GroupMe + Facebook = RantRoom!

  • Who are the founders?

[I] graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010 with a BS in Textile Technology: Medical Textiles, and in 2011 with a MS in Advanced Analytics. He landed his first job as a Global Consultant for SAS Institute where he traveled the world training on social networking. John has always had a passion for people. His passion combined with his knowledge of social networking makes RantRoom a perfect fit.

Terry Johnson, Jr.[CMO} was born in Warren, OH is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University where he received a B.S. in Business Marketing, and later on his career completed a Certificate in Project Management from Washington University in St. Louis. Terry has extensive background in new business development, product sales, and applying a strong expertise in data-driven, long-term strategic planning. Terry joins the RantRoom team with over a decade of experience in Marketing and Sales.

Doug Armstrong [CTO] graduated from North Carolina State University in 2000 with a degree in Computer Science Engineering. An early intern at a startup turned into a 10year career in software R&D after an acquisition by a largo Telco company. Following this, in 2008 he co-founded a mobile business consulting firm. The firm focused on designing, developing and releasing both self and white label apps for corporate partners. After a successful exit from this business, Doug joined SAS Institute as a developer in R&D, but the mobile business world would come calling again with the excitement of RantRoom.

  • Why pick this idea? What makes it unique?

I was in my 5th year of donating my time to a non-profit youth group working with teenagers in a North Carolina community. A particular night I attended a local high school basketball game in support of one of the teenagers from the non-profit youth group, his name was Ryan.

Ryan, a 17 year old teenager, was one of the better players on the team and like most of the people who had attended the game I had become accustomed to watching Ryan put on a basketball clinic. He was already starting to build his stat sheet by half time he had 12 points 7 rebounds and 3 assist. As the 3rd quarter started the other team had made its adjustments as I would expect. Ryan’s coach made his adjustments by using him as a decoy to get his teammates more involved in the game. Going into the 3rd quarter Ryan started to get scoring opportunities, which helped to increase their lead over the opposing team, but just as the quarter was ending an opposing player fouled Ryan hard. He did not like the excessive nature of the foul, and who would! A shoving match took place between both players words were said the refs jumped between both players to prevent any escalation and gave them both a warning. Ryan was quite upset he walked away from the other player, he and his teammates huddled as they tried to calm him down.

Now the referees had warned both teams after the scuffle as tempers had flared. Just as the referees were trying to get control of the game Ryan made his way over to them to apologize for his behavior after the foul. A particular ref overreacted and gave him a technical not realizing what Ryan was trying to do. Ryan was in disbelief as well as everyone else in attendance. His coach tried to get clarity as he was standing in between Ryan and the ref as Ryan was trying to explain himself. The referee’s main goal was to get control of the game but he seemed to make matters worse. At this point things seemed to be going south very fast Ryan was extremely upset and his coach, in order to protect Ryan sent him to the locker room.

I was livid at what I was witnessing and I wanted to express my irritation on social media! As I proceeded to log into a social media outlet that I used I realized that unless you’re here and experiencing what I am experiencing my expressions do not resonate because there is no connection.

Then it came to me; why not create a social media platform where I can freely express any of my passions, in an environment with people who are sharing the same experience that I am? Where I can connect with people around the nation to discuss trending topics of interest, tv shows, or anything that I am passionate about?

RantRoom is unique in its approach to social media, because the main focus is on contextualizing your comments. We believe in challenging and revolutionizing social media by contextualizing the conversation thru simple dialogue between individuals that share common interest whether that is likes and/or dislikes.

  • Any intellectual property to protect?

Yes, we hold provisional patent pending status.

  • How are you funded? Raise any money? If so how much and from whom, when? If not, what’s funding target?

We have been bootstrapping since the beginning, and have done pretty well so far. As we recognize the growth potential of what we have built so far, and the inherent value in yet-to-be developed features in our idea and business plan pipeline, we believe that we are quickly approaching the need for funding.

  • Why apply for Office Hours?

Office Hours is a great opportunity for us to be able to gain knowledge, insight, relationships, and possible funding from leaders in the technology market space. What better place to do so than in the heart of San Francisco? We understand the inherent value in making connections outside of our local area, as well as the interactions with like-minded business developers and investors.

  • What do you think this means for the new venture?

This conference is huge for us! It gives us the opportunity to share our vision but also receive constructive feedback. As an entrepreneur you are inherently optimistic but this conference would also provide skeptical thinkers that will try to poke holes and look for any problems/issues. This will only make us better to provide the best experience to the world!

  • What’s the mission as you head west and how will you prepare?

Our mission in California is 3-fold. First, to soak up as much knowledge in the VC space as possible. Second, to network and create key relationships with people who believe in our vision. And third, to leave with a few second meetings scheduled. The end goal is to raise a round of funding.
As for preparations? Well, in addition to the business-related requisites such as a pitch deck and the like, we are bringing our excitement and passion for the space!

  • Do you plan to share what you learn from the experience with other entrepreneurs? Please explain.

Definitely. The knowledge that we will gain from this conference is not for us to keep a secret. If we can help other small businesses in their future ventures through sharing our experiences, then we will. We have built relationships with Entrepreneur programs at our local NCSU campus. We hope to be able to contribute back to this valuable community with the knowledge and experience that will be gained at events such as “Office Space”. We firmly believe there is great potential in this region and want to be full participants in our involvement.